Wan-Ifra GNI APAC Subscriptions Lab to launch on 7 August 2020

Project invites 8 Asian publishers for selection to program

Illustration Statista via Internet.

The World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), FTI Consulting and Google have announced the launch of the APAC GNI Subscriptions Lab at the WAN-IFRA Asian Media Leaders eSummit. The Lab is an intensive 4-month program to help eight different news publishers from the Asia-Pacific region strengthen digital subscription capabilities and grow reader revenue. Interested publishers can apply here until 7 August 2020. (Editor’s note: Elsewhere the date is given as 14 August 2020 – see below.)

The program is an Asian Pacific expansion of GNI Subscriptions Labs in North America, Latin America and Europe and is part of the Google News Initiative (GNI) which provides products, partnership and training to help the news industry succeed in the digital age. The APAC GNI Subscriptions Lab is being developed in partnership with FTI Consulting and WAN-IFRA and draws on FTI Consulting’s expertise in helping global news publishers develop successful digital subscription businesses, Google’s resource support across the digital audience, product and strategic insights, and WAN-IFRA’s extensive network of member news publishers across the region.

The goal of the program is to develop a sustainable and thriving digital subscriptions business for participating news organizations. The program will include modules on creating loyal paying relationships with readers, optimizing the engagement and subscription funnel, and embracing a reader-first strategy and culture.

WAN-IFRA, FTI Consulting, and Google will select publishers for the program following an online application process, with the goal of representing a diverse cross-section of legacy print and digital-native news organizations. Following the Lab, the experience and knowledge gained from the program will be shared with publishers around the world to help them implement their own digital subscription strategies.

“News organizations who had set in motion strategies for alternate revenue streams were able to better withstand the pressures of reduced advertising due to Covid-19. We believe it’s crucial for publishers of all sizes to find ways to grow their reader revenue to ensure a sustainable future for their business. By launching the Subscriptions Labs in APAC, we hope to support and encourage more news organizations in their transitions towards this model,” says Rohan Tiwary, head of Media, News & Entertainment Partnerships for Google APAC.

“The opportunity to work with eight Asian Pacific publishers, to help them build their own successful subscription businesses, was one that we were very excited to be a part of,” says Ken Harding, senior managing director for FTI Consulting. “Over the next several months, the FTI team will be working with each publisher, sharing the learnings from both our work in the GNI North America Subs Lab as well as publishing clients worldwide, on how to best accelerate digital subscription growth. We believe that reader revenue is a key component for a sustainable business model for news publishers and we are excited to be building this program with our partners in the Lab.”

“As the global association for news media companies, WAN-IFRA believes that a financially healthy media is essential for a free and independent press. We have long championed digital subscriptions as an important pathway to a sustainable media business,” says Thomas Jacob, chief operating officer of WAN-IFRA. “Over the last decade, we have been helping several news media companies understand paid content models through digital media conferences across the globe, advisory services, special reports, and online learning modules. We are delighted to partner GNI and FTI in this Subscriptions Lab to assist Asian media companies on their paid content journey.”


Applications are open and interested publishers should complete an application form before August 14, 2020. More information on the application process and criteria are available here (PDF).

Successful applicants will be notified by the end of August.

Frequently asked questions

Why is the Google News Initiative launching an Asia Pacific Subscriptions Lab? The Google News Initiative is committed to partnering with news publishers to develop new business models that can support high-quality journalism in the digital age. In today’s landscape with pressures of reduced advertising due to COVID-19, it is even more critical for publishers to develop sustainable and thriving digital subscription businesses. We believe that this program will not only support the publishers participating in the lab but will also result in developing key learnings and insights that can be shared with publishers across the Asia-Pacific region.

How will lab participants be chosen? Lab participants will be selected based on a variety of factors. Our goal is to build a diverse cohort of newspaper and digital-native publishers that are committed to scaling their digital subscription businesses. Participating publishers should also be open to sharing their experiences and insights with the other participants in the lab.

How can I apply? You can apply for the lab here. Applications are open from 22 July 2020 and will close 14 August 2020.

Who is eligible to apply? The GNI APAC Subscriptions Lab is open to news publishers (legacy print and digital natives) who have launched a digital subscription business.

What are the eligible regions? Organizations must be incorporated and publish in one of the eligible countries/regions in APAC as outlined (in alphabetical order): Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Cook Islands, East Timor, Easter Island, Fiji, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau SAR, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Vietnam.

Will you consider applications from news organizations without a digital subscription business? Unfortunately, the scope of the program is focused around strengthening digital subscriptions capabilities for news publishers with an existing paywall and growing reader revenue, instead of developing a paywall from the ground up.

Am I required to share data as part of the Lab? Yes. The sharing of data is a requirement in order to do data analytics so that we can assess where publishers stand on the maturity curve and identify short-term tactics and long-term opportunities to scale reader revenue. Additionally, the participating publishers should be willing to share knowledge with the ecosystem, and this includes sharing conversion performance data with the cohort for benchmarking purposes. That said, all data will be strictly confidential and used for the purpose of the lab.

Are there any fees associated with the program? The costs for the lab will be funded by Google and covers business review, subscriptions diagnostic, capabilities assessment, strategy roadmap, and continuous improvement framework. It excludes any grant funding to support internal rollouts.

How long will the lab run for? The lab will commence in late August and run for roughly four months.

Is the instruction in English? English will be the primary language for the Subscriptions Lab to allow for collaboration and sharing across the group. Publishers whose publications are in their native language are encouraged to apply, however, they should have some team members that can participate in English language-based meetings and workshops.

If I am selected, what should I expect from the lab? The first phase of the lab will focus on an analytical assessment and executive interviews to develop a baseline understanding of each publishers’ digital subscription operating model. With virtual on-site and cohort meetings, publishers will receive access to individualized reports and industry experts who will facilitate discussions around best practices and strategies. Lastly, each publisher will get a personalized strategic roadmap to identify short-term initiatives, recommended experiments, and organizational capabilities needed to scale their subscription businesses.

What tools and resources are available to me if I am unable to participate in the lab? For publishers unable to participate in the lab, Google will be holding Publisher Bootcamps, virtual learning sessions to share key insights and recommendations broadly with the APAC region. More detailed information and dates to come on the Publisher Bootcamps.


Jen Teo, Deputy Director, Training & Special Projects| WAN-IFRA APAC. Email: jen.teo@wan-ifra.org; Cheryl Chong |Google. Email: cherylyenyee@google.com

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